Sunday, June 12, 2016

Using a Tragedy for Your Agenda [Clinton Wilcox]

Early this morning, tragedy struck Orlando, Florida when a man, Omar Mateen, walked into a gay club in the city and opened fire. He killed 50 people and wounded at least 53, and after a three-hour standoff, police burst into the building and killed the gunman. Of course, there is much speculation about his motives. It's not my intention here to guess at what his motivations actually were. While many were quick to sympathize with those killed and urged us to mourn with them, many also took to social media to support their own pet agenda. One such tweet follows:

This gentleman took to twitter to compare the need for gun control to the need for abortion regulations. Of course the comparison doesn't make any sense, but it didn't stop him (and many others) from predictably arguing, following a shooting, that we need stricter gun control. Let's take a look at his claims.

"How about we treat every young man who wants to buy a gun like every woman who wants to get an abortion..."

There's a very important difference between owning guns and abortion. The right to own and bear arms is a right that is specifically spelled out and guaranteed by our Constitution, ever since its inception. The text of the Second Amendment reads as follows: "A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed." To infringe means to "Act so as to limit or undermine (something)". To institute these things (mandatory waiting period, doctor's note, etc.) would be clearly infringing upon the right to keep and bear arms. However, the "right" to an abortion is not a right guaranteed by the Constitution. In fact, it was a "right" invented in 1973 by the Supreme Court. Killing an innocent human being is not a natural right, and our Founders knew that.

"It makes more sense to do this with young men and guns than with women and health care, right?"

Here Nev begs the question by assuming that abortion is health care. But if pregnancy is not a disease, then abortion is not healthcare. It makes sense to do this with abortion because, the immorality of the act aside, many women and young girls who abort do so out of panic, fear, and frustration. These limitations are put in place to allow these girls/women to have adequate time to calm down and make sure they're in a more rational frame of mind to make a decision about what they think they want.

" woman getting an abortion has killed a room full of people in seconds, right?"

Well, more than 50 million women have killed their children in a manner of minutes in these abortion clinics.

Comparing gun control to abortion is simply a false analogy. If you institute gun control, the only people who win are the criminals, who will still be able to acquire guns. They will have an easier time because law-abiding citizens will be unable to protect themselves. Comparing gun control with abortion regulations is nothing more than exploiting a tragedy for your own agenda.

Monday, June 6, 2016

Is God Pro-Abortion? A Response to Cenk Uygur of The Young Turks [Aaron Brake]

Receiving your news and information from late night television, comedy shows, or internet political commentary can often leave you misinformed, especially when hosts address topics in which they have no expertise. Such is the case in this video where Cenk Uygur of The Young Turks offers his thoughts on the Bible and abortion and attempts to make the case that God is pro-abortion:

How should Christian pro-life advocates respond? Cenk needs to be corrected on several points.

First, Cenk begins by writing off the scientific evidence that a genetically distinct, living, and whole human being comes into existence at conception. The question of “when life begins” has been settled for decades thanks to the science of embryology. To quote just a few experts in the field,

Human life begins at fertilization, the process during which a male gamete or sperm (spermatozoo developmentn) unites with a female gamete or oocyte (ovum) to form a single cell called a zygote. This highly specialized, totipotent cell marked the beginning of each of us as a unique individual. (and) A zygote is the beginning of a new human being (i.e., an embryo).”[1]

“Although life is a continuous process, fertilization… is a critical landmark because, under ordinary circumstances, a new genetically distinct human organism is formed when the chromosomes of the male and female pronuclei blend in the oocyte.”[2]

“The development of a human being begins with fertilization, a process by which two highly specialized cells, the spermatozoon from the male and the oocyte from the female, unite to give rise to a new organism, the zygote.”[3]

You can read 40 similar quotes from medical experts in this article who reach the same conclusion.

Despite the evidence, Cenk says the view that life begins at conception is based solely on religion. Why? Because this allows him to dismiss the view as “religious” which further justifies his refusal and inability to interact with the evidence. Not only is this wrong, but it is intellectually lazy. Secular pro-life advocates use the same evidence and argumentation in making a case for the pro-life view, and their analysis certainly cannot be labeled “religious.”

Tuesday, May 31, 2016

Sing It Together Now: "My Booooooody" [Aaron Brake]

Joy Behar of The View recently commented on the issue of abortion:

There are several versions of the “my body, my choice” argument. Behar’s version seems to be the unsophisticated sort so here are a few quick points to keep in mind when responding.

First, clarify the nature of abortion. Abortion is the intentional killing of an innocent human being. This definition should be uncontroversial.

Second, focus the debate on the one question that matters: “What is the unborn?” Notice the other host in this video raises the issue of whether or not the father has a say in the abortion. This doesn’t get to the heart of the matter which is, “What is the unborn?” If the unborn is not a human being, no justification for elective abortion is necessary. If the unborn is a human being, no justification is adequate.

Third, the “my body, my choice” slogan is prima facie false. A woman cannot do whatever she wants with her own body, and neither can a man. There are plenty of laws which restrict our freedom with what we can do with our own bodies (e.g., drug laws, prostitution, public urination, indecent exposure, etc.). More to the point, laws always restrict what we can do with our own bodies when what we are doing brings harm to another individual. This is exactly what is happening in the case of abortion, where the mother’s decision not only brings harm to her unborn but intentionally kills him or her.

Fourth, Behar seems to assume there is only one body involved. But it should be obvious there are two: the mother’s and the unborn. While the mother’s body is certainly involved, it is not the mother’s body that is being aborted. After all, the woman survives the abortion (in most cases) while the unborn doesn’t. This is also confirmed by science. The unborn from conception has a totally unique, individual, and separate genetic code. The unborn has a separate central nervous system, may have a different blood type and, in the case of a boy, a different gender. In other words, a pregnant woman does not have four arms, four legs, and two heads. A woman does not transform into a hermaphrodite when pregnant with a boy and then back to a female after birth. There are two bodies involved, not one. So this is not so much about what a woman can do with her own body as it is what she should be permitted to do with the body and life of her unborn.

Finally, present counterexamples where appropriate. Perhaps what Behar means to say is that a woman is sovereign over her own body and, even if the unborn is a human being, the mother still has the right to kill him or her. In this case it may be helpful to provide counterexamples which go against our moral intuitions. For example, if a woman can do whatever she wants with her own body, may she intentionally cause birth defects to her unborn child? May she take the drug thalidomide during pregnancy knowing this could cause her child to be born without arms or legs? Unless they are a moral monster, the answer should be, “No.” But if it is not morally permissible for a woman to intentionally cause birth defects to her unborn child based on the “my body, my choice” position, why is it permissible for the woman to kill her unborn child? 

First simplify the debate and then argue. This is the pro-life two-step.

Wednesday, March 23, 2016

Finishing Well: Short Outline on End of Life Issues [SK]

Your grandfather is dying of cancer. He’s requested no extraordinary measures to keep him alive a few weeks longer. His physical pain is controlled with morphine, which leaves him minimally conscious. The morphine may even hasten death. Even his feeding tube is a burden to him and only prolongs his suffering.

Suppose you have legal authority to make decisions for your grandfather. Should you honor his wish and withhold or withdraw treatment? Is it wrong for his doctor to intentionally help him die to relieve suffering?

Let’s begin by defining two key terms. Euthanasia means the physician directly kills the patient, usually with a lethal injection. Physician-assisted suicide means the doctor gives the patient a prescription for lethal drugs, which the patient then takes on his own.

Key point (thesis):

It is one thing to withhold treatment that no longer benefits a dying patient; it is quite another to intentionally kill an innocent human being via euthanasia or physician-assisted suicide. A review of theology, ethics, and pastoral care explains why.

Help from theology

1. The biblical case against euthanasia and physician assisted suicide is rooted in the Imago Dei. Humans bear the image of God and thus have value (Gen. 1:26-27). Because humans bear the image of God, the shedding of innocent blood—that is, the intentional killing of innocent human beings—is strictly forbidden (Ex.  23:7; Prov. 6:16-19; Matt. 5:21). Euthanasia and physician assisted suicide shed innocent blood—that is, intentionally kill innocent human beings. Therefore, euthanasia and physician-assisted suicide are wrong.

2. How and when a person dies is up to God (Eccl. 3:1-12; Heb. 9:27). Death was not part of God’s design but is here due to sin (Rom. 5:12). It is now a normal and natural part of the human race. For the Christian, death is indeed an enemy, but it’s a conquered enemy. The resurrection of Jesus Christ secures a resurrected and perfected body for every believer (1 Cor. 15).

3. Because death is a conquered enemy, we must not always resist it. In cases where further treatment is futile or burdensome to the dying patient, death can be welcomed as the doorway to eternity. Earthly life, while good, is not our ultimate good. Eternal fellowship with God is. Allowing natural death to run its course does not violate the sanctity of human life. However, we must never forget that terminally ill patients—like all humans—bear God’s image. Thus, we are never to intentionally kill them via euthanasia or doctor-assisted suicide. We are obligated to always care and never harm.

Help from ethics

1. What do we intend? When treating a dying patient, we must always examine our intent. Are we withdrawing treatment because we intend to kill the patient or because it no longer benefits him? Agneta Sutton makes a great point: A truly medical (as opposed to quality of life) decision to withdraw treatment is based on the belief that the treatment is valueless (futile), not that the patient is so. So, while doctors are indeed qualified to determine if a treatment is futile, they are no more qualified than anyone else to determine that an individual life is futile. In your grandfather’s case, food and water should only be withdrawn in the final stages when they no longer benefit him and will only cause additional suffering. On this understanding, the withdrawing of treatment is not intended to kill, only to avoid prolonged and excessive agony for the patient. True, death will come, but it comes as the result of the illness not my direct action.

2. Are we caring or comparing? Gilbert Meilaender puts it well: “The fact that we ought not aim at death for ourselves for another does not mean that we must always do everything possible to oppose it.” Thus, rejecting a treatment that is burdensome is not a refusal of life. But here the physician must be both careful and honest. Instead of asking, “Is the patient’s life a benefit to him?” the physician should inquire “What, if anything, can we do that will benefit the life that he has? Our task, writes Meilaender, “is not to judge the worth of this person’s life relative to other possible or actual lives. Our task is to care for the life he has as best we can.”

3. Do we intend death or merely foresee it? Regarding morphine, we must again draw careful distinctions, this time between euthanasia and sufficient pain relief to dying patients. Put differently, Meilaender says we must distinguish between an act’s aim (intent) and its foreseen results. A patient in the final stages of terminal cancer may request increasingly large doses of morphine to control pain even though the increase might (though not necessarily) hasten death. In this particular case, the intent of the physician is to relieve pain and provide the best care possible given the circumstances. True, he can foresee a possible result—death may come slightly sooner—but he does not intend that. He simply intends to relieve pain and make the patient as comfortable as possible. Thus, instead of intentionally killing the patient with a heavy overdose, he provides a carefully calibrated increase in morphine aimed at controlling pain, not bringing about a quicker death. As Rae points out, “it’s acceptable for dying patients to sleep before they die.” Though death is foreseen, it is not intended. In the end, the patient dies from his underlying illness, not because the doctor intentionally kills him.

To sum up, treatment can be removed when:

  • competent patient requests removal
  • futile
  • burden outweighs benefit

Help from pastoral care

Instead of intentionally killing dying patients, Christians should help them bring closure. They need a “heads-up” that it’s time to say what needs to be said to wrap up. Four key things dying patients need to hear and say frequently:

  • I love you.
  • Thank you.
  • Forgive me.
  • I forgive you.

Suggested Reading:

1. Scott Rae, Moral Choices: An Introduction to Ethics (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2009)
2. Agneta Sutton, Christian Bioethics: A Guide for the Perplexed (London: T&T Clark, 2008)
3. Gilbert Meilaender, Bioethics: A Primer for Christians(Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2005)
4. Leon Kass, Life, Liberty, and the Defense of Dignity (San Francisco: Encounter Books, 2002)
5. John Kilner, ed., Why the Church Needs Bioethics (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2011)
6. Christopher Kaczor, A Defense of Dignity: Creating Life, Destroying Life, and Protecting the rights of Conscience (Notre Dame: Notre Dame University Press, 2013)

Tuesday, March 8, 2016

Deal Breaker [James Jenkins]

For years we have been hearing variations of “Planned Parenthood performs good services” in response to criticisms the organization traffics in fetal remains, exploits young girls, and skirts the law.Recently, Donald Trump praised Planned Parenthood while claiming the pro-life credentials. But can a true pro-lifer give Planned Parenthood a pass?

Trump's praise of PP is deeply flawed. Imagine a young man bringing his fiancĂ© home to meet his parents for the very first time. He is very proud and tells his parents all of the wonderful things about her. She volunteers for two charitable organizations, is a great cook, plays the piano at church, has her degree in nursing and she is just an all - around great catch! But there's one small problem:  For 11 days each year (only 3% yearly!), she insists on going to Las Vegas for sexual liaisons with strange men. She has no intention of curtailing these liasons while married.  The parents are astonished, not only at the young woman's demands, but their son's defense of her behavior. “BUT SHE DOES SO MANY OTHER WONDERFUL THINGS!"

What we have here is a deal killer. No one in his right mind would marry under these terms. Why, then, would anyone with true pro-life credentials tout Planned Parenthood's good deeds when it's bad ones are legion? Providing a free breast exams does not make up for ripping faces off unborn human beings. Good deeds do not atone for bad ones.

Trump is ignoring the severity of abortion. Abortion is wrong because it intentionally destroys an innocent human being in the most inhumane way imaginable. Planned Parenthood performs over 300,000 abortions every year. Of course, PP claims only 3% of its activity is abortion-related. Fine. Then stop the 3% and the controversy ends! Planned Parenthood can enjoy near-unlimited funding from Congress. Of course, Planned Parenthood has zero interest in stopping abortion. For Donald Trump to highlight PP's alleged virtues while ignoring its known evil  is tantamount to justifying spousal infidelity because you still have a majority interest in your adulterous wife's activity calendar!

In short, only by assuming that the unborn are not human can a person justify Planned Parenthood's alleged virtues. Would Trump or anyone else defend an organization which killed 2-year-olds but provided free pap smears to their mothers? Never in a million years--unless, of course, they assume toddlers aren't human!

Trump wants it both ways. He wants the pro-life vote, but he wants Planned Parenthood's services. God help us. A nation willing to live with that tension has aborted its conscience as well as its children.

Thursday, March 3, 2016

Untrapped (The California Story) Part 3 [Serge]

In part one of this series, we challenged the idea that so-called TRAP laws are predominantly responsible for the decrease in abortion providers as argued by this John Oliver video and the upcoming documentary Trapped. I used the state of Iowa as an example of a state without any TRAP laws that have lost a number of abortion clinics. One may argue that Iowa is a small state and could very well be an outlier, so today I turn my attention to the largest state and the one that performs the most abortions - California.

California is possibly the most abortion friendly state in our nation. They not enacted any TRAP laws, and they have specifically passed a law that ensures that surgical abortion clinics would not be held to any building standard that primary care facilities are not held to. In other words, if a building is appropriate for a doctor to check your child for strep throat, it is fine to be used to perform abortions. Basically, it is an anti-TRAP law.

Also, California has specifically attempted to increase access to abortion by allowing nurses and PA's to perform abortions. This was branded at the time as a game changer. In fact, this is how these two laws were described:
But California is going in the opposite direction, with two bills that could lead to the one of the biggest expansions of access to abortion in the United States since the FDA approved mifepristone, aka the abortion pill, in 2000.(emphasis mine)
Here we have the state that performs the greatest number of abortions, specifically enacting laws designed to increase abortion access - even to the point of not requiring a doctor perform surgical abortions. Even our opponents expected the biggest expansion of abortion availability to occur after these change. So what exactly did happen? Has California bucked the trend of abortion facilities closing?

The answer is no. According to Bloomberg, over a dozen clinics have closed in California since 2011. If the goal of these laws was increased access to abortion, they have been an abject failure. If one believes that eliminating all TRAP laws will result in an increase in abortion access, all evidence shows that they are simply wrong.

I'm not the only one who has seen this trend. Both The Guardian and the Washington Post among others have reported that the decrease in abortion clinics has also occurred in liberal states as well as conservative ones. Yet this evidence is completely ignored by Oliver's video and most likely will be ignored by the Trapped documentary. If you believe decreased access to abortion is a horrible tragedy, it's easy to attempt to lay the blame on callous pro-life legislation. It's much more difficult to acknowledge that this "problem" is occurring in states that have the most liberal abortion laws. Putting teary eyed abortion workers on camera doesn't change this fact.

Wednesday, March 2, 2016

Untrapped Part 2 [Serge]

I wish to respond to some of the more specific points in John Oliver's video, but before I tackle that I wish to make a general point about abortion access in general. There is a general implication that unless there is easy and close access to abortion, then the right to have an abortion itself is threatened. Obviously I deny that this right should exist, but this argument itself is fallacious and it is easy to demonstrate why.

Allow me an example. I have a desire to see the documentary that Oliver references in his video. Unfortunately, the closest screening to me is about 300 miles away. It would be prohibitively costly both in terms of time and finances for me to view this documentary that I really want to, and in fact have a right to see.

Furthermore, what if I contacted my local theatre and asked them to host a screening? They then check into the possibility both report back to me that it would be prohibitively expensive for them to host. They would love to, but the money that they would have to invest in order to show that documentary is not worth it.

Would any of these facts change the "right" that I have to see a movie of my choosing? Am I being denied my constitutional rights because someone in Chicago has access to this movie and I do not? How close does the viewing need to be to me before my rights are considered protected?

Likewise, even if abortion is not locally available or convenient does not indicate that one's constitutional rights are being fringed upon. Roe v Wade did not guarantee abortion to be a locally available procedure.

This is not to argue that all of the so-called TRAP laws are wise in this fight, but the mere fact that abortion may be more difficult to obtain does not an infringement of any supposed rights.